Monday, April 26, 2010

Meditation on the Art of the Push Mower

I spent my childhood using a push mower to tackle the not insignificant amount of yard owned by my parents. That mower weighed what seemed a thousand pounds, and was possibly last sharpened in the early 1900s, when it was fresh from the factory floor. I think it might have been cast iron. I think it probably should have been donated to a World War II scrap metal drive. Take these illustrations, then add some rust and make the wooden parts kind of rickety, and you have our mower. However, I wouldn't have traded it for anything, mostly because it was such a good martyrdom aid. Eventually using it became so onerous in my imagination that I decided I could get away with charging my parents a certain dollar amount for each portion of the lawn I completed. I guess they didn't want to use it either, because they actually paid me. Thanks for enabling my book-buying habit, mom and dad!

Being the proud operator of a push mower, rather than one of those fancy gas- or electric-powered mowers, you learn all sorts of tricks. Most important is not to let the grass get too long, because otherwise you end up having to use a scythe (only tried that once) or maybe a pair of garden shears to trim the entire lawn. Either that or going over the same area twenty times with the push mower. Number of times I have let the grass get to long to effectively mow in the twenty or so years I've been using a push mower: countless. These days when I do it I at least have recourse to my handy Black and Decker edger, which means I can edge the entire lawn if necessary--but that leaves my arms feeling like I've been using a jackhammer, and defeats the purpose of using a push mower in the first place.

One of the big enemies of the push mower is the lowly stick--even surprisingly small ones. Hit one just right, and your forward progress immediately stops, usually leaving a mower-handle shaped bruise on your stomach or other, more vulnerable parts. It's important to learn how to recognize which sticks are going to be problems, and which sticks you can mow down with abandon. Wise people remove larger sticks before they get started, but as a child I was never that thoughtful. Problem sticks that you miss will need to be unjammed with a swift kick to the mower blades (see footwear tip below) to get the mower to spit out the obstruction. Sometimes this results in a sore heel. Sometimes the operator is thankful that the mower blades aren't that sharp. Another useful tip is not to mow the grass in sandals. This is probably true for all mowing, actually, and especially true for mowing just after it's rained. It just takes a while to get all those grass clippings out from between your toes. 

Keeping all these things in mind, I highly recommend using a push mower if you've got a reasonably small piece of grass to keep trimmed. Not only is it you-powered, necessitating neither electricity nor gas, it offers a wonderful opportunity for meditation on the natural world, your neighbor's disgustingly well-kept yard, or your arm-length to-do list, all with the background noise of a soft whir of blades (and the occasional cursing caused by stick encounters) rather than the roar of an engine.

Meditation Index

Monday, April 19, 2010

Meditation on Methods of Remembering Things

I am a chronic not rememberer of things, particularly things I am supposed to do. Particularly things I don't want to do that I am supposed to do. I also have trouble remembering the date. And the day, for that matter. To try to remember to do these things, whether they are work or home-related, or at least so I can't make the excuse that I wasn't reminded to do them, I have tried the following methods:
  • One of those fancy desk calendars where you have a bunch of space for each day
  • One of those hanging wall calendars, usually featuring baseball players, or penguins, or cute cats
  • One of those nifty Moleskine weekly planners--one of many Moleskines in my life
  • Post-it notes on the bathroom mirror
  • Post-it notes near the door
  • Tiny scraps of paper that quickly pile up like snowflakes on my desk
By far the best method of remembering I have ever found, however, is the hand-writing method. Let me say now that I know ALL ABOUT Sarah Palin, and the fact that she writes on her hand too may be one of the only things I will ever find to like about her. But let me emphasize that I am not a "major political figure" (at least not that I know of) who is making a speech about something. I'm just trying to remember to get to the bank before it closes. Also, she writes on the inside of her hand, and I write on the back of mine--it tickles too much to write on my palm, even though this utterly destroys my "Palm Pilot" pun.

Hand-writing: It washes off, but it usually sticks around long enough to jog the mind a little. Here is a sampling of my last week of reminders:

 This could say lunch, or lump, but I think it might be "bank"--dangers of hand washing

Two out of three of these things might have been accomplished


Whoops, I think I still need to do some of those things--time to re-write

Paperback order, replacements . . . more work-related notes. The bank again.

A rare clear day--must be the weekend

This system really works, people. I recommend that everyone try it immediately. Also, now that I have my new watch (pictured above), I don't have to remember the date. Score!

Meditation Index

Museum Review: MOMA

I am not well known for being a fan of contemporary and modern art. However, I would never turn down the opportunity to visit a world-famous museum, MOMA in this case, which we did on our recent trip to New York City. Doing some extra research beforehand because we were planning on visiting with a baby, I also found out that the museum was hosting what promised to be an interesting exhibit on Tim Burton's career.

It was a Saturday and a beautiful day in the city, so it wasn't surprising that the museum was extremely crowded. At the Tim Burton exhibit, I had plenty of time to contemplate the Greatness of Burton, because of the sheer volume of bodies that had to be navigated to see the artwork. The exhibit was completely packed with people, despite the (presumably) strict timed ticketing system that the museum had in place. In addition, the art (mostly caricatures and small pieces, with scatterings of modeled 3D objects by other artists based on his movie concepts, and movie memorabilia) was packed on the walls, so it was crowded in that sense as well. And forget standing still to watch one of the video installations in the cramped and overheated spaces allowed.

The rest of my party visited the 5th floor (paintings and sculptures 1880s-1940s).

 Appreciating the artistic stylings of Mr. van Gogh

The theoretical quiet nursing room promised by the visitor's guide did not materialize, and museum staff were not so helpful. Trying to find a quiet place to nurse a six-month old among the Matisses was not a success. Trying to get the docents to find out if there was stroller/ramp access was not a success. And, of course, there were the eleventy-hundred people.

Marina Abramović performs a piece from
"The Artist is Present," twelve gajillion people watch

Which, if you are in to watching random people stare at the artist, can be viewed Live! Online! during exhibit hours. Oh, Modern Art. Sometimes you can be pretty cool, in a crazy way. Don't tell anyone I said that. Apparently, some patrons were recently ejected for inappropriate touching of performers in another one of her pieces, leading me to wonder what the heck I was doing with the not-live art on the 4th and 5th floors.

I did end up spending about a half hour on my own in the collection, cruising past the Cezannes, the Warhols, the Magrittes, the Duchamps . . . If I had it to do over again I would wish for more time and more helpful staff. And to go on a Tuesday morning when the museum opens. All pipe dreams, for sure.

Grade: C+